Parents: It’s prom season, which is likely creating anxiety of some sort in your household – whether or not your teen is participating in this high school ritual. You may be wondering how to help a child who is totally down because he or she won’t be going. Every situation is different, but I’d encourage you to resist the urge to share stories from “back in your day” or try to placate your young person with promises of a brighter future. It’s enough to just be present in their sad state, listening and looking toward Jesus. I’ve written a letter to your beloved son or daughter; I hope this helps a bit.
I wanted to start by writing “Dear Delightful One,” but I know you aren’t feeling so delightful right now – and I didn’t want you to stop reading after the first three words. So I hope you’re still reading!
And before I go any further, let me just affirm that your situation stinks. You wanted to go to the prom, and you aren’t – either because you didn’t get asked or someone (or maybe multiple people) turned you down. Being rejected and feeling unwanted is the worst. So it’s okay to feel sad and hurt right now. I won’t waste time with a story of when I went through something like that when I was close to your age, because I remember being your age and barely listening when adults told me those sorts of stories.
But I will tell you this – my feelings of being rejected or unwanted haven’t disappeared just because I grew up and got married. Finally finding “my person” doesn’t mean I always feel loved and admired – and that’s not because he’s a bad guy. He’s actually a really good man, but he’s not humanly capable of giving me everything I need and desire. In the same manner, I fall short of his hopes in relationship with me and sometimes leave him feeling unwanted. Ugh, this could come across as quite depressing. So why am I telling you this?
Here’s a secret – we were made to be beautifully complete human beings, created for deep, secure, and loving relationship with God and others. Sin broke in and messed everything up, shattering souls and destabilizing the perfect union intended for us. God sent his only son Jesus to mend what was broken, restoring humanity to wholeness.
This Jesus was not gorgeous as depicted in so many books, movies, and paintings. In fact, here’s how the prophet Isaiah described him:
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (53:3).
This does not sound like a guy who would have made it to prom! And he also knew our pain:
“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (53:4).
Our most loving Jesus embodied an unlovely human form, living a life of sorrow that took him to the cross – all because he longed for his people to rest from their burdens in His deep and secure love for them:
“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (53:5).
So child, it’s okay to be sad. That’s part of walking the way of Jesus. I also hope you know that there’s no one going to the prom who will find all they desire while they are there. I pray that you – and they – discover and rest in the complete welcome and acceptance of God’s loving embrace.
Grace and Peace, Delightful One.